The Danger That Auto Manufacturers Bring to Our Streets

In New York City, pedestrians and cyclists make up the majority of people killed and injured in traffic crashes.  Crash victims may seek compensation from motorists, but often recovery is limited to the available auto insurance, which may be as little as $25,000 — even in cases where the motorist has killed a person.  What about the manufacturers of the vehicles that kill hundreds on New Yorker City streets each year?

Urban traffic has become more dangerous in the last twenty years due to the intensive marketing by auto manufacturers of SUVs, van, and light trucks, a class of vehicles that safety experts group together as “light truck vehicles,” or LTVs).  Experts broadly agree that the increasing numbers of SUVs and light trucks found on city streets are much more likely to cause death or serious injury to a pedestrian than are passenger cars:

  • “The evidence shows that SUVs represent a significantly greater hazard to pedestrians than ordinary cars.”[1]
  • “Pedestrians have a substantially greater likelihood of dying when struck by an LTV than when struck by a car. … At any given speed of impact, the likelihood of serious injury to the head and chest was shown to be greater in LTV impacts than in car impacts.”[2]
  • “LTVs were associated with a 3.0 times higher risk of severe injuries in comparison with passenger vehicles.  Risk of death in LTV-pedestrian collisions is 3.4 times that of passenger vehicle-pedestrian crashes.[3]
  • “With the rapid increase in the numbers of different types of light truck vehicles, the threat to pedestrian safety is on the rise.”[4]

This increased danger from LTVs is not because these vehicles are heavier than cars, but because of height and design of the vehicle’s front end and hood:

  • “A common misconception is that the increased vehicle mass of SUVs is responsible for the increased hazard to pedestrians. In fact, although vehicle mass is important in car to car collisions, it is a minor factor in vehicle-pedestrian collisions”.[5]
  • “The increased injury risk from being hit by an SUV arises primarily from the geometry of the front end structure.”[6]
  • “The geometrical incompatibility (e.g., the steel bull bars, the higher [hood] height) of SUVs is the major cause of a higher mortality rate amongst pedestrians, not the vehicle weight.”[7]
  • “What engineering design features make striking LTVs more hazardous than striking cars? …likely candidates are vehicle stiffness and frontal profile.”[8]

In Europe and elsewhere, vehicle manufacturers have modified the front ends of many SUVs and light truck vehicles to make them far less dangerous to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.  But these modifications generally have not been applied in to vehicles marketed in the Unites States.  Why?

Given the failure of U.S. regulators to set meaningful pedestrian safety standards for SUVs and light truck vehicles, legal action may be the only way for vulnerable street users to hold auto manufacturers accountable.  If you or someone you know has been seriously injured or killed in a traffic crash, contact Rankin & Taylor for a confidential, free, no-pressure meeting to discuss whether not only the driver, but also the manufacturer of the vehicle is at fault.


[1] Simms, C. & O‟Neill, D. (2005). Sports Utility Vehicles and older pedestrians: A damaging collision. British Medical Journal, 331 787-788, 787.

[2] Lefler, D. E. & Gabler, H. C. (2004). The fatality and injury risk of light truck impacts with pedestrians in the United States. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 36 (2), 295-304, at 303.

[3] Roudsari, B. S., Mock, C. N., Kaufman, R., Grossman, D., Henary, B. Y. & Crandall, J. (2004). Pedestrian crashes: Higher injury severity and mortality rate for light truck vehicles compared with passenger vehicles. Injury Prevention, 10 (1), 154-158, 158.

[4] Roudsari, B. S., Mock, C. N., Kaufman, R., Grossman, D., Henary, B. Y. & Crandall, J. (2004). Pedestrian crashes: Higher injury severity and mortality rate for light truck vehicles compared with passenger vehicles. Injury Prevention, 10 (1), 154-158, 158.

[5] Simms, C. & O‟Neill, D. (2005). Sports Utility Vehicles and older pedestrians: A damaging collision. British Medical Journal, 331 787-788, 787.

[6] J Knowles, J Broughton and G Buckle, “Sports Utility Vehicles: Collision Risks And Outcomes For London’s Road Users,” Project Record #PO3100118359, London Road Safety Unit, Transport for London, at 11.

[7] J Knowles, J Broughton and G Buckle, “Sports Utility Vehicles: Collision Risks And Outcomes For London’s Road Users,” Project Record #PO3100118359, London Road Safety Unit, Transport for London, at 11.

[8] Lefler, D. E. & Gabler, H. C. (2004). The fatality and injury risk of light truck impacts with pedestrians in the United States. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 36 (2), 295-304, at 303.

Be Sociable, Share!